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San Francisco faces tough transportation investment choices

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Tapping money bucket: The City has already locked funding for several projects, such as the Central Subway Muni Metro route. - S.F. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • S.F. Examiner File Photo
  • Tapping money bucket: The City has already locked funding for several projects, such as the Central Subway Muni Metro route.

Think San Francisco should spend $3 billion over the next 30 years on improvements to make Muni a world-class transit system? That’s possible, but then not a single dime would be spent on improvements to San Francisco’s freeway infrastructure or for biking and walking upgrades.

The region could invest $100 million to increase carpool lanes and other ride-sharing techniques, although that means it would be a lot harder to find money for grade-separated transit-only lanes on Geneva Avenue.

Over the next 30 years, the region has roughly $3.2 billion to spend on transportation projects — a funding pot that is badly outpaced by the Bay Area’s long-term needs, meaning residents will have some tough decisions to make in the coming decades.

To help local taxpayers grapple with those looming choices, the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, a local transit planning agency, has set up a website that specifically details the trade-offs residents will face in the future.

According to the authority, The City will receive about $64 billion in transportation funds between now and 2040.

However, $9 billion has already been locked in to projects, including the Central Subway, the Transbay Transit Center and the Doyle Drive rebuild at the Golden Gate Bridge. Another $51 billion is socked away for routine maintenance and operation services. That leaves just $3.2 billion remaining — and The City has between $10 billion and $12 billion in needs over the next three decades, according to Tilly Change, deputy director of the authority.

“We are going to face some major decisions,” Chang said. “We have to meet The City’s basic needs, but we also have to plan for the future.”

The website, www.sfbudgetczar.com, lays out an array of different options for San Francisco’s future. It also lists potential revenue options, which include congestion-pricing plans for automobiles or another half-cent sales tax measure. Those methods could generate an additional $4 billion to $6 billion for transportation goals.

The authority is urging locals to go the website and indicate which projects they support and if they would back any potential revenue measures. So far, about 400 people have used the budget tool, Chang said. Gathering feedback from residents is crucial, as the SFCTA is in the midst of developing San Francisco’s Transportation Plan, a document that will outline priorities for the future.

“The City’s long-range transportation strategy is critical to meeting our overall livability and economic development goals,” said Supervisor David Campos, who chairs the authority. “San Francisco can pursue a bold vision that is inclusive and responsive to our needs, or continue with business as usual. It is important that we hear from the public as we consider alternative ways of investing in our system.”

wreisman@sfexaminer.com